Real Madrid Dealt Injury Blow as Underused Midfielder Lasts Just 19 Minutes Against APOEL
Real Madrid were dealt an injury blow on Wednesday night as Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic managed just 19 minutes of the Champions League opener against APOEL as a result of a muscle twinge suffered in innocuous circumstances.
Kovacic was in the side as coach Zinedine Zidane employed a rotation policy for the game against the Cypriot champions, but had to be replaced by regular starter Toni Kroos.
AS notes that Kroos needed several minutes to warm-up and get ready to come on because the injury to Kovacic had been so sudden and unexpected.
After several summers of minimal changes, Real don't have the biggest of squads. A number of recently graduated Castilla players make up the numbers in the first-team and it may be that Kovacic's problem could hand an opportunity down the line.
Home-grown Marcos Llorente was apparently keen to leave the club and pursue first-team opportunities after receiving an offer from Paris Saint-Germain during the summer.
He was denied the chance to take it by Zidane and Los Blancos president Florentino Perez, though, and this may prove to be exactly the reason why.
Summer signing Dani Ceballos is another young player fighting for a place in Real's competitive midfield and he made his Champions League debut as a substitute for Isco.
"I am happy to have started my Champions League dream with a win, it will be hard to forget. It is a special day for me, a dream come true," he told RealMadrid.com.
"The team started well and we were electric in the second half, which led to us getting a great win. We are trying to write history, it is in our hands and today we showed the drive we have to win a third consecutive Champions League title."